LEAP could have done more, Linden Chamber official says

– upcoming seminar aims to kick start businesses

The now defunct Linden Economic Advancement Programme (LEAP) could have done much more than it actually did to advance the interests of ordinary people in Linden who were willing to accept the support that was on offer to those who were prepared to undertake small business initiatives, an executive member of the Linden Chamber of Commerce (LCC) told Stabroek Business in an exclusive interview earlier this week.

“Of course LEAP could have done much more. It could have targeted projects in the agricultural sector that would have provided a livelihood for more Lindeners who no longer had jobs in the bauxite industry,” LCC Assistant Secretary/Treasurer Gerald Whittington told Stabroek Business.

“There was a lot that was needed in terms of training and financing and providing equipment for people who were interested in farming. One might even say that some of the funding probably went in the wrong direction. Yes, of course LEAP could have done more for Linden,” Whittington said.

Georgetown Chamber President Clinton Urling (left) at media briefing with Linden Chamber & Acting President Noland Walton and Assistant Secretary Treasurer Gerald Whittington

Launched in 2002, LEAP was initiated by the Government of Guyana with funding from the European Union (EU) with the objective of fostering entrepreneurship and enterprise for Linden in the wake of the decline of the state-run bauxite industry.

Whittington along with LCC Vice President Noland Walton met the media in Georgetown to provide details of plans for a November 9 business seminar in Linden which will be addressed by commercial bank officials and a representative of the diplomatic community. Walton endorsed the view that LEAP had fallen short of the expectations of the community, but said he would not go as far as suggesting that the entity was “a complete failure”.

Meanwhile, Walton told the media briefing that the LCC was on the verge of completing a strategic plan under the guidance of Georgetown Chamber of Commerce (GCC) agriculture point man Beni Sankar, aimed at maximising community interest in an agricultural initiative which he says “aims at helping Linden reach a target of producing up to 50 per cent of its own food. Walton said the plan was likely to be completed by the end of November but its implementation, “as it relates to training and funding” would be dependent on support agencies. He named the Small Business Bureau, recently established under the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce as one of the agencies to which the project will be looking for support.

Walton told the media that the need to seek out optional sources of funding for kick-starting small business initiatives in Linden arose out of the failure of LEAP’s successor agency, the Linden Enterprise Network (LEN) to provide loans for business development.

Meanwhile, Walton told Stabroek Business that the Chamber was hoping to use the November 9 banking seminar to broaden community awareness of issues pertaining to the setting up and running of modest business enterprises including the accessing of finance and the management of resources. Walton said the modest size of the Linden business community meant that the Chamber would be seeking to utilize the November 9 forum “to reach out of Lindeners beyond the confines of what one might consider to be the business community.”

Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) President Clinton Urling told Stabroek Business that the initiative had arisen out of discussions between the two Chambers and the GCCI had agreed to provide various forms of support for the initiative. He said the GCCI had recognised the importance of providing support for the business community in Linden “particularly at this time” and that the banking seminar “would provide a forum through which “businesses at every level as well as Lindeners interested in setting up businesses” would secure an opportunity to raise issues affecting them.

According to Urling, while the Georgetown Chamber was “only too willing to extend to extend its support” to the LCC it was the leadership of the Linden Chamber which, at the end of the day would see businesses in the community get off the ground. Urling said while he was pleased to hear that the LCC was working on a five-year plan to generate an enhanced business environment in Linden, it was his view that the situation in the township once known as the “mining community” necessitated “a much shorter term plan. Frankly, I’m not particularly a fan of five-year plans,” Urling told Stabroek Business.

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